Life is hard. I realize no one would be shocked by this truth—we’ve all been through the wringer in some way. Hence, our need for comfort. Life hands us a scoopful of pain, and we stand there holding it, wondering how to process it, how to put it down, how to forget its sting. When settling the pain fails, we look to something to mask it.
We might eat or drink or sleep or shop or have sex or play video games or read. We might even pray, lifting our wounded hearts to the heavens, asking God to do something to ease the pain.
The Bible tells of Job’s misery over his shattered life. I ache with him as he sits in sackcloth, scraping himself with the pottery shards of his brokenness. Job’s friends attempt to comfort him—and fail. They theologize the suffering as Job sits before them mourning the loss of his family and clinging to the remnants of his trust in God. They do not enter into his suffering, but sit apart, trying to sort it out on his behalf, as if Job can pick up their thoughts and build a new life with them.
In the end, God blasts Job’s friends as unwise and needy of Job’s counsel and prayers. Job was real in his suffering. Job’s friends were detached and theoretical when they should have been engaged and empathetic.
When our friends are in need of comfort, how do we respond? Do we detach, forcing them to seek a quick fix by stuffing away the pain and picking up a sham of a new life? Or do we engage, allowing them to respond like Job, sitting with them in sackcloth and ashes?
Our own need for comfort can cause us to disengage from the pain of others even as we ask them to do likewise. Soon we are all living detached, theoretical lives instead of engaged, empathetic ones.
Life is hard. But pretending it isn’t doesn’t mask the pain—it magnifies it.
Has anyone come to sit with you in your time of mourning? Do you allow others time to mourn, even if it makes you uncomfortable?